Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein is constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Zierlein will share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles. This week, he shares what he's hearing about one of the draft's top defensive linemen and two prospects from the SEC.
- List of combine participants
- Mock drafts | Jeremiah | Brooks | Casserly
- Four-round mock draft
- Mayock's position rankings
- Jeremiah's top 50 draft prospects
- Brooks' top 5 prospects by position
- Official underclassmen early entry list
- 8 teams that need to draft QB
- 2017 draft order and needs for every team
The scoop: "He's damn good. Now, I don't (have him ranked as high) as you do (third overall) because he's not big enough for inside and he's not as long as you like on the outside. You have to figure out where you will play him, but he won't stop. He's going to be really productive." -- AFC director of scouting on Stanford DL Solomon Thomas
The skinny: He's right about Thomas -- he's damn good. One of the things that makes Thomas so appealing is that he combines foot quickness with above-average strength into a motor that revs as hot as any muscle car out there. In my opinion, there is no doubt that he will be a disruptive, productive pro, but NFL evaluators are always a little concerned about players who fall beneath their positional norms for size. Thomas is a little light (6-foot-3, 273 pounds, per school measurements) to play on the interior, but that is where he is most dangerous. He might end up getting pegged as an early down defensive end who moves inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.
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The scoop: "Really like him. He's got a dog mindset and just kind of launches into everything he does. Typical Alabama player but he's on that high end of the competitive scale, which is a big compliment." - AFC executive on WR ArDarius Stewart
The skinny: Stewart is a highly competitive player, and he also brings that Alabama physicality to the wide receiver position. He's built like a running back and is able to run like one with the ball in his hands, but what really stands out is how strong he is within his routes. It's hard to redirect Stewart and he can create space with his size and strength. There are some evaluators who believe that he's one of the safer bets at wide receiver in this year's draft.
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The scoop: "He needs to be uncovered so he can fly around and just go get the ball. He didn't have much help over there and he took it upon himself to make as many plays as possible. I love that mindset." -- AFC East regional scout on Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
The skinny: The scout believes Cunningham needs to be free to roam and chase in order to be at his best. I would tend to agree with this sentiment, although I do believe that his downhill, attacking play style can work inside in a 3-4 as well. Cunningham is extremely productive, but he's also inconsistent at taking on blocks and would likely benefit from being on the weak side of a 4-3 defense where he can range around the field while in base packages and handle coverage duties on third down.
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